U.S. House Switches to Corn-Based Water Bottles

U.S. House Switches to Corn-Based Water Bottles

As part of its Green the Capital program, the House of Representatives has replaced plastic water bottles sold in its cafeterias with compostable bottles.

The Green Bottle water from the Naturally Iowa dairy is packaged in containers made of NatureWorks' corn-based polylactic acid product, Ingeo. The water inside comes from Grand Springs in Virginia.

Naturally Iowa only makes its bottled water available in places that have containers for people to discard compostable materials, in order to keep the bottles out of landfills.

The House has been composting food waste, napkins and compostable cups, plates and utensils through Green the Capital, which was launched in early 2007. The program includes broad goals of making the House carbon-neutral by the end of this year, cutting energy consumption in half within a decade and integrating sustainability into its operations. The food service portion of the program calls for using local and organic food, reducing waste, composting and using greener cleaning supplies.

Bill Horner, president and CEO of Naturally Iowa, said that controlled tests show that the bottles can compost in less than 30 days in ideal conditions in an industrial composter. Although people might still throw the bottles away in the trash, Horner said that they would still degrade in landfills. "The speed of the degradation pretty much depends on where the bottle would land in the landfill," he said. If it ends up in soil and buried deep, it will degrade faster than if it get mixed with metals with very little on top of it. "It might not be optimum, but nevertheless it's going to heat up," he said.

Cafeterias in the House typically sell more than 100,000 bottles of water a year, not counting vending machines sales. The Green Bottle water will sell for $1.60, 10 cents more than previous bottles, but will not be available in vending machines initially.

Although many companies now offer a range of compostable products, most areas lack proper composting streams and infrastructure, a problem that is being tackled by the Bioplastics Recycling Consortium.